Thursday, November 3, 2011


I am still overwhelmed by my projects and meetings but couldn't resist a quick post after coming across the Edgar Degas exhibit at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC: Degas' Dancers at the Barre.  (For NPR's coverage, click here.)

I've always preferred the intense discipline and repetition of stretching, ballet class, and rehearsals over the adrenaline of the final show.  Degas was equally fascinated by all this behind-the-scenes work and chose to represent it in over 1,500 paintings, pastels and drawings of dancers.

My friends at the barre
at the rehearsal studio back in the spring

Not surprisingly, Degas exercised the same discipline in his painting.  "Dancers at the Barre" was re-worked over a period of 20 years, with Degas changing positions of legs and feet about eight times on this same canvas.

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas' "Dancers at the Barre", early 1880s to c. 1900s
at The Phillips Collection

The resulting painting may be physiologically impossible -- but it is Art.  You could say the same about Ballet.


  1. i totally agree, ballet is art in movement!! last year i met a group of dancer ( neoclassical ballet) and i discovered again how much i like it!! i don't know if i can explain myself properly, but i liked it also because dance was ''daily'', not just on the stage: i mean, it was artistic (for me) also the way they walk, sit down at the bar and everything :):)

  2. Interesting I neither knew the painting nor the history of it. Looking at the leg positions I cringed, cause it hurts to look at them.

    Enjoy your weekend.

  3. Hardwork makes the end product look so easy.
    Wonderful first pick, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  4. Ballet must be the most difficult art! It was a passion of mine when I was little, the dancers just looked so gracious and delicate!

    Of course later, I realized they were not delicate at all! Only hard work and discipline give the illusion of effortless gestures and beauty.

  5. nice to get your perspective on enjoying the rehearsals more than the show.
    i wonder if that is in part due to the fact that the show signals an end instead of a beginning.

  6. of all dance forms i think ballet is the one which you have to be born to need the strength to do all that excrutiating looking postures with such elegance!

  7. we have this exhibition here in london too but haven't seen it yet. love the pictures.

  8. fascinating. i used to learn ballet!~

  9. Haha, they do look like the painting!
    It is a very pretty painting.

  10. I love the photo and the painting the colours are beautiful the orange background is stunning! I will love to have it hanging in one of my rooms! I love expressionism :)

  11. I absolutely love Dega's paintings.
    Your photo is so pretty as well. It's so interesting that they are wearing black skirts!

  12. Dawanda is actually an african girl name and means unique.

    By the way have you read books by Roddy Doyle? I've just read "Rover saves Christmas" by him and it had me literally rolling on the floor laughing. He's funny and imaginative.

    Have a great Sunday and a good start into the new week.


  13. Wonderful photo and juxtaposition with Degas painting - that pose was actually one I was good at - you've reminded me that there is a Degas exhibition in London I need to see!

  14. this really reminded me of Degas

  15. I love degas painting !

  16. I love that your shot mirrors the painting. You are totally right both are Art. Xxxx

  17. Omg so cool I saw this exhibition at the royal academy! Love this post, sleeping beauty is opening this winter very soon cannot wait to go

  18. Hey Jenny! Yes tha's one of my paintings I did ages ago in Mexico. Did you get my photos? I don't know if I picked the right ones let me know if you want one in particular! Have a lovely sunday. xx

  19. Jenny the photo and painting are great
    there is something special about ballet that people are affascinated

    come and say Hi,
    The Dolls Factory

  20. Wonderful post and thank you for the thoughts. I had never considered impossibility of the poses before. I guess that ART can document a slightly stretched imagination? Maybe Degas was inflexible and to him the ballet dancers stretching seemed as improbable as his impression of them.

  21. I love how Degas portrayed the bodies of dancers. There is something so incredible and awe-striking to me about a ballet dancer in particular stretching and getting into and out of positions. Gorgeous post.


  22. yes ballet and art go hand in hand... both magic and beautiful...

  23. I hope things are going well! I love Degas, though i must say that i'm a really late comer to impressionist painting. I really didn't appreciate or enjoy it for quite some time...but i have always loved these paintings.

  24. Wonderful post!
    Maybe you’ll have time to visit my blog :)

    Fashion Crazy Ball and My Facebook Page

  25. I've always loved Degas, and the Impressionist movement. LOVE it. When we go to the Tate Modern (in London) I always need some time alone, sitting in front of a huge Monet water lilies painting. And as one of those girls who loved ballet (altho, my parents being kind of modern hippies, our dance schools and classes tended to be the bare feet, footless black tights 'pretend you're a butterfly' modern dance).

    But my sister's daughter, Becky, is a proper, old fashioned ballet student girl, and my sister took some gorgeous shots in the rehearsal studio a few years ago. I had played around with them to make them paintings, too. I've just been looking and can't find them - and I see you're madly busy with projects (so curious!!) but I'll see if she still has them.

    What I especially love, what I've said from the start when I've started blogging - and which, sadly, hasn't turned out the case with a group of bullying bloggers here - not all, but enough to spoil blogging for me for a while - is the forum, the exchange of ideas, the virtual salon that can be created - and which inspires creativity. In fact... I'm gonna lift your photo of your friends, with your knowledge and hopefully, permission.

    I nearly forgot why I came here! To thank you for your comment - especially knowing now that you're in the thick of things (apologies for such a long comment) and to say that if you like the 70s style, you might like this pair, in rust:

    It seemed a colour that might look gorgeous on you. You've got a great shape - that's what I love, we're all different and we all know our strengths, and hopefully, play to them.

    Okay I"ll shut up now! Have a lovely Thursday, unFoolish Aesthete! xox

  26. @Polka Dot: Would love to see your "paintings" of rehearsal studio shots! Also, thanks for the rust trouser link. They look great!

  27. Beautiful images.

    Have a great weekend.


Dear Fellow Aesthetes, I love hearing your thoughts. I think the other readers find them valuable too! Much love xxx

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